Regardless of the team's current spot at the bottom of the cellar, the Milwaukee Bucks possess numerous assets who have substantial upside and who could be crucial to the team's future success.
However, there's only one who stands out above the rest: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The 19-year-old rookie had little experience before being drafted by the Bucks last summer, and he's already showing he could be a star down the road.
But just what is it that makes the Greek Freak special and standout from his teammates?
Antetokounmpo earned the nickname, "The Greek Freak" for a reason.
When the Bucks drafted him last summer, Antetokounmpo stood 6'9" and weighed 196 pounds—according to DraftExpress—and was already impressing scouts with his hand size and impressive wingspan.
And, in his rookie season, his numbers aren't the only surprising thing about him.
According to Gery Woelfel of the The Journal Times (Racine, WI), Antetokounmpo not only is still growing, but made a measurable increase in his height from draft night to the season:
Not only is Antetokounmpo’s game growing, so is his body. When the Bucks drafted him in June, he was 6-9. Now, just more than five months later, he has added more than an inch to his lanky frame.
Considering that his length is already extremely impressive and helps him be a nuisance on defense, the prospects of him potentially growing and becoming a 7-footer should frighten the opposition even more.
Antetokounmpo's length allows him to be a versatile defender as well.
He's quick enough to guard most players out on the perimeter, yet tall enough to hold his own in the post.
And in instances where he does get beat, those lanky arms allow him to recover that much more effectively. Don't believe me? Check this video out:
That's not one-of-a-kind footage, either. In fact, there are quite a few instances of the Greek Freak doing his thing defensively and they're well worth your time.
When it comes to his combination of size, quickness and athleticism, there hasn't been a shortage of comparisons of Antetokounmpo to Kevin Durant.
And while that's probably daunting for the young Greek, it is, at least from a physical standpoint, an apt comparison. It's rare that you will find players of that size who possess the athleticism that Antetokounmpo and Durant do.
Obviously he has a long way to go to match Durant in other areas, but you cannot teach size, length or athletic ability.
Is it cliche to say a young player brings energy when he's on the floor? Probably.
But with Antetokounmpo, one can't help but notice it.
Every time he steps on the floor, he has a bounce to his step and, more often than not, a smile stretching from ear to ear can be seen lighting up a room.
And his attitude hasn't gone unnoticed on a national level.
In fact, ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson recently wrote about Antetokounmpo's joyous mentality and hit the nail on the head:
Giannis reminds me that basketball is a disease. Or it can be to some people.
"I think I'm addicted to this game," he says to me as we sit in his locker stall after a game, the last ones to leave. "I'm sick about this game, you know what I mean? I go home, I think about the game. I go to church, I think about the game. When I go out, I talk about basketball. I call my brother, I talk about basketball. My mother tell me something, she hears about basketball. Sometimes I'm like, OK, I'm addicted, I'm sick. I love this game. I hope I play this game like when I get old, you know. Stay at home, become a coach. Go overseas and play when I'm 50."
The game is his life. Which explains the smile and all beneath it.
Along with his passion for the game comes a sense of work ethic and effort rarely seen in many NBA players.
Discussing Antetokounmpo's involvement in a specific play during one of Milwaukee's early games, Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated wrote:
Five weeks into his first season it is not inconceivable that Antetokounmpo could become the best player in this unusually unproductive draft class. Last weekend in Milwaukee he played 28 minutes in a win against the Celtics while contributing 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and the game-changing sequence. It began with a turnover committed by Antetokounmpo, which horrified him.
"I make the mistake," he said in a high-pitched Greek accent. "The only thing that I can do to help my teammates is take the ball back. So I try: I run towards my friend, and I try to block the shot, and I get the ball back."
His "friend" was Boston guard Jordan Crawford, who assumed he had broken away for a layup when Antetokounmpo ran him down like a stretched-out Usain Bolt. "Some guys will give up on a play like that - they'll turn the ball over and then it's a woe-is-me type of body language," said Bucks coach Larry Drew. "I didn't think he had a chance, to be honest with you."
Then Antetokounmpo was turning back the other way, outsprinting all his friends to finish an alley-oop lob violently in transition. "That was my goal," he said. "That was my mistake: I try to correct immediately."
For a player who, at the time, was only 18 years old, he has shown tremendous maturity and holds himself accountable for mistakes.
He doesn't hang his head and jog back on defense. He sprints and turns a negative into a positive.
Demonstrating his level of maturity even more and, likely because of his impoverished upbringing, he seems to understand the importance of the money he's making. As Antetokounmpo told Woelfel in January, “I save all my money. I never spend my money. I just got it in the bank. You can ask my teammates.”
How many rookies say the same thing?
Regardless of the reason why he is the way he is, there's no denying his effort, willingness to learn and his general love for the game.
Don't believe me? Watch a Bucks game and see for yourself.
Or just check out this tweet from the man himself:
I just taste for the first time a smothie..MAN GOD BLESS AMERICA😊— GiannisAntetokounmpo (@G_ante34) January 20, 2014
Better yet, just become his latest follower. You won't regret it.
The Next Big Thing?
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo a future All Star?
A positive attitude, hustle and work ethic can take a player only so far. But when you combine that with the physical tools and skills Antetokounmpo has, you have the perfect formula for success.
Over time we'll learn whether or not he will actually reach his full potential and become a league-wide superstar, but there's no denying his upside.
Even on a team with emerging young talent like Brandon Knight and John Henson, Antetokounmpo stands out among everyone.
For Bucks fans, that's something to be giddy about.